Jan 21, 2015
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I met with a local prospect who has also been talking to an offshore SEO company. This offshore firm is offering a first-page placement guarantee, which I find really hard to swallow.

How do other other local search consultants deal with this? Do you offer a position guarantee, and if not, how would you answer the question of a guarantee?

thanks for your insights....



Jan 22, 2013
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Tell them that the only way to guarantee front page placement is by purchasing an ad in AdWords. You can explain to them that this is a trick used by these offshore firms that require them to not only pay for the ads, but whatever maintenance fee they will be charging.

Eric Rohrback

Oct 3, 2012
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Well these situations are kind of annoying because these firms that guarantee first page results really deliver first page results... just not on the keywords that matter. They'll do one of two things, either do the AW route like @travelincat mentioned, or they'll go a more devious route and choose BS keywords that have no volume and no impact on the business.

If you were a HVAC contractor in Rochester, they wouldn't go after "HVAC Rochester" because that would be too competitive. They'd go after "HVAC in Rochester specializing in kitchen repairs" or something else obnoxiously long tailed. That keyword would show on the first page after optimizing a page for that, but wouldn't show on the real money term you'd want to rank for.

They may also go after unrelated keywords that have very low competition which would be easy to get a ranking on. Sure they can get the ranking, but they wouldn't generate relevant traffic or leads.

Basically they would only go after the more obscure keywords to make sure they can prove the guarantee. They never said they'd be able to get you ranking on the first page for the keywords you really want... they just said they'll get you on the first page :)

Shady and deceptive. Watch out

Eric Rohrback

Oct 3, 2012
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Oh an I missed the second part of the question. No, never guarantee anything in terms or ranking or w/e. You have to remember that you don't control the product, Google does. When they make a change you'll need to adapt, and sometimes that can impact the work previously done. Never guarantee anything except the fact that you'll work hard to make their business more successful, and do everything in your power to bring them a positive return on their investment.


Sep 27, 2012
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Excellent points Eric. As noted, the only way to guarantee any first page placement is Adwords or eventually winning at local.

I did see a company offer a very clever guarantee after 6 or 7 months. They didn't guarantee 1st page rankings but it was something that was very believable and not dodgy. I will have to look through some paperwork to find it.

Managing expectations should be at the forefront with this prospect. Spell out your plan so they don't expect dominance...lol


Jan 6, 2015
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I have tried explaining to one client who wanted a guarantee that even if I do all the right things, if those above the website too are doing the same things, then chances are things stay the same. While we can expedite by building authority/links faster, it's risky. So for their own good, I advised them to work for the long term and not hire me or anybody else who offered placement guarantee. They seemed to understand.
Mar 25, 2014
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I had a client who went with a firm that guaranteed him front page results.

Whilst he has front page results for "obnoxiously long tail results" he is not getting any conversion in terms of sales or meaningful traffic to his website.

We're chatting again later this month about the difference between front page results and sales :)

Linda Buquet

Local Search Expert
Jun 28, 2012
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Great points all!

When I still worked with clients, in cases like this I often used a takeaway close that worked 50% of the time.

I'd explain, like everyone in above said, why no one can guarantee rankings. But then I'd say something like this...

"I understand that getting a guarantee helps you feel more confident about their service. So if you totally trust that this company can deliver what they promise, then for the price they are offering, I say go for it! What do you have to lose, but some time and some money?

Since I don't feel it's ethical to offer a guarantee since no one can guarantee what Google will do, and since I won't paint blue sky, or just tell people what they want to hear to get their business, I realize my service is not a good fit for everyone. I think you should go with them - give them a try.

Some of my best clients came to me after trying another service that could not deliver on their promises. So realize I'm always here for you, if and when you need help down the road. I wish you the best of luck though and really hope this works out for you!"

Now when I speak it, it sounds more natural than what I wrote above... But there were some important psychological triggers I used in the statements above.

"So if you totally trust that this company can deliver what they promise" Brings up the fear.
Of course they don't trust it.

"I think you should go with them - give them a try." - At this point I'm saying this honestly, it's not manipulation. I really do think they should go with them and don't want them as a client.

BUT they don't want to take a risk and give someone a try. They want someone they can trust to deliver results! What they EXPECT me to do is start giving them the hard sell or some other kind of sales pitch. If I do that, I lose and they walk.

What I did was the exact opposite of what they expect. I totally backed off and gave them permission to walk away, if they really think the other solution is better.
That builds trust!

So the reply I would get 50% of the time when I tell them to go with the other company was: "Wait, Wait! I didn't say I was going to go with them, I just wanted a guarantee. But I understand what you are saying and even though your fees are higher, I feel more comfortable working with you."

If they end up instead going with the other company, then you've left the door open for them to come back to you down the road.

Haha, YAY Dragon typed most of that! I could not have typed all that. I needed to do tons of corrections, but we are making progress!


Jan 13, 2015
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I was offered a ranking guarantee several years ago when I was handling marketing for an eCommerce company.

They offered to only charge based on results for competitive keywords. He assured me that it would be totally white hat. I refused to believe that it will be white hat and remain white hat.

I then started learning SEO myself. 2-3 years later that firm's clients got manual actions by Google. Due to the severity and the length of time that they were building hundreds of forum links, commenting links and spammy backlinks Google gave them a really tough time in removing the penalty.

If an agency has to build questionable links in order to get paid, they will eventually end up doing so.
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